Today we are publishing a tribute of K. M. Munshi to Sri Aurobindo. Dr. Kanaiyalal Maneklal Munshi (30 December 1887—8 February 1971) was a famous politician, educationist and author. In 1938 he established Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan. He was the Minister for Agriculture and Food in independent India and also served as the Governor of Uttar Pradesh from 1952 to 1957.
This tribute, titled ‘Sri Aurobindo Ashram—A Pilgrimage’ was published in The Hindustan Times on 15 August 1952.
With warm regards,
Sri Aurobindo Ashram—A Pilgrimage
K. M. Munshi
‘August 15. It is a wonderful day, the day when Freedom came, Sri Aurobindo was born, and Lokamanya Tilak left us the legacy of our birthright.
‘On March 12, 1952, I got off at the Madras station and went by car to Pondicherry. The Yuvaraja of Pithapuram—a zamindar of Madras—joined me on this occasion, as on a previous one. Sri Aurobindo had come into the life of this good-natured man, who takes life as it comes cheerfully, in a curious way. Once he dreamt of a venerable old man. Months later, he went to Pondicherry where he had the darshan of the Master. At once he recognized the old man of his dreams and fell under his influence. Not that his life was suddenly transformed. Nor did he delve into the secrets of the ‘Life Divine’. But he felt an unfamiliar but overpowering reverence towards Sri Aurobindo. A vein of hidden spirituality was opened in him and he got the solace he needed.
‘In the course of my life, I came in living touch with three Masters: Sri Aurobindo, Mrs. Besant and Gandhiji. Besant influenced me a little; Gandhiji intimately; Sri Aurobindo whose contact goes back to my boyhood, profoundly. I call all these three ‘Masters’. When I say ‘Masters’ I do not wish to be accused of or honoured with being a devotee. I absorb their influence; I bask in it; I feel refreshed but rarely do I change over to their way of life. To me, they are lighthouses of the Spirit. I steer my frail bark my own way, grateful for the light given to me.
‘Sri Aurobindo was my professor in the Baroda College, and his militant nationalism of 1904 moulded my early outlook. Later I casually read some of his works. During the last few years, however, his influence has been coming over me intermittently, but I have felt more and more perceptibly benefited by it. Often in the past I wanted to go to Pondicherry, but I did not wish to offer formal respects to a man whom I revered so deeply. In July 1950, however, I felt an urge to visit the Ashram. Normally, as you know, Sri Aurobindo did not see people, except on four days in the year. But in my case he told the Secretary, he treated me as a disciple and would make an exception.
‘When I visited him, after the lapse of more than 40 years, I saw before me a being completely transformed: radiant, blissful, enveloped in an atmosphere of godlike calm. He spoke in a low, clear voice, which stirred the depth of my being.
‘I talked to him of my spiritual needs. I said: “I am at a dead end. The world is too much with me.”
‘The Sage replied: “You need not give up the world in order to advance in self-realisation. But you cannot advance by impatience. I wrote to you that I would help you, and in my own way I am helping you… You have the urge and the light. Go your own way. Do not be deflected from the faith in your natural evolution. I will watch over your progress.”
‘Then we discussed Indian culture, its present crisis, even the Hindu Code. When I said, “the younger generation is fed on theories and beliefs which are undermining the higher life of India,” Sri Aurobindo replied: “You must overcome this lack of faith. Rest assured that our culture cannot be undermined. This is only a passing phase.”
‘Then he sprang a surprise on me: “When do you expect India to be united?” he asked.
‘I was taken aback. I explained to him how our leaders had agreed to partition. “So long as the present generation of politicians is concerned, I cannot think of any time when the two countries—India and Pakistan—can be united.”
‘The Master smiled, “India will be re-united. I see it clearly.” Was it an opinion? Or a prophecy? Or was it clear perception?
‘I shook my head in doubt and asked how India could be re-united. In two short sentences he described what Pakistan stood for and indicated how the two countries could come together.
‘Knowing us politicians, I could do nothing but again shake my head sceptically.
‘Now we talked of Pondicherry. He told me that this territory would come to India only by international negotiations, not by any plebiscite.
‘At the time, out of regard for the sage, I took only a few people concerned into confidence concerning this conversation. I felt humble in the Master’s presence, and came out dazed. There is no doubt that there was something in him which made my thoughts run to him time and again.
‘In December 1950, he died. I was the first to be told about it in Delhi on the telephone by our Consul-General. For two hours my mind went blank. I did not know why.
‘There was only a vague sense of being stunned. I did not feel like this even when Gandhiji, who was certainly very near to me, died; and I saw him dying. But after that, my mind went back to him again and again.’